Maricopa Corporate College (MCOR) student Moises Navarro found his opportunity last year and he’s not looking back.
After dropping out of high school due to medical reasons, Navarro started working as a bank teller. He enjoyed his job, but he knew it wasn’t right for him. He aspired to work in the medical field, but without a diploma, he wasn’t sure how to get there.
That was until he discovered the Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) program through his caseworker at Friendly House, a local nonprofit organization that empowers Arizona communities through education and human services.
The I-BEST program, which has been offered in partnership between MCOR and Friendly House for two years, gives individuals the opportunity to pursue their GED and in-demand career training at no cost. The program is a result of a grant awarded to Friendly House from the Arizona Department of Education.
In its first year, a cohort of 15 students successfully completed the program, which incorporated Clinical Medical Assistant training. This year, the program expanded to two cohorts, one of which included Clinical Medical Assistant training, while the other included Pharmacy Technician training.
When Navarro learned that he could earn both his GED and a Pharmacy Technician certificate, he knew the program was his ticket into the medical field.
“I just didn’t know where to go, where to start,” Navarro said. “This was a perfect way to start.”
Once enrolled in the program, Navarro and his classmates began attending their GED and career training classes on the Phoenix College campus.
Holding classes on community college campuses is an important detail, Aida Jiménez-Uselton, Friendly House director of adult education, said. This helps students feel like they are part of the college and contributes to the program’s 100 percent retention rate.
Friendly House also attributes its high retention rate to the removal of other common barriers that prevent students from attending class. For example, the nonprofit organization provides gas cards and bus passes to help with transportation, babysitting services, medical services and more.
For Jiménez-Uselton and the rest of the Friendly House staff, the goal of this program is for students to realize their potential.
“Ultimately, we all want the same thing: people to secure employment or seek higher education,” Jiménez-Uselton said. “We hope that this gives them the exposure they need to aspire for more.”
After finishing the Pharmacy Technician program earlier this year, Navarro is doing just that by continuing his education in pursuit of a career as either a pharmacist or a pediatrician.
He plans to start an associate’s degree program at Phoenix College in the fall, and later transfer to a state university to earn his bachelor’s and doctorate degrees, he said. He also hopes to start working at a local pharmacy so he can continue to build upon the skills he has learned.
Individuals interested in future cohorts are encouraged to contact Friendly House Vice President of Administration and Community Affairs, Charlene Vasquez (Charlene.Vasquez@friendlyhouse.org), for more information about the program.